When you go to see your favorite band or singer, you may wonder why do singers wear an earpiece on stage. Is it because they really aren’t singing? What’s going on with that?
The thing is that most musicians use these internal monitors onstage so they can hear the song they’re playing without interference.
The song may sound very loud, but if the singer is not in time with the music, it can alter the entire performance. This is what gives them a special advantage over a floor monitor.
That headset is called an internal monitor. It allows you to hear exactly what you want. For example, if you are a singer singing with a live band, there is a lot of noise on stage with you, especially from the drummer. It can be very difficult to listen to yourself, which can make you sing louder and even scream.
Your voice may tire and you may feel that you are straining. If you use the inner ears, you can have the sound engineer put just his voice and, say, the keyboard in his ears. You won’t hear the drummer at all! You can choose how much or little of each instrument you will hear.
If you’re a drummer, you may also check out our buying guides for best in ear monitors for drummers.
In-ear monitors are also ideal for musicians who play. It is highly unlikely that famous artists like Madonna, Britney Spears, or even J-Lo can go through a performance without one of these crucial tools.
Still, you’re probably curious why do musicians wear earpieces and what other advantages they have. Well, read on, because you are about to discover how your favorite singers achieve those amazing shows with the help of a simple internal monitor!
Table of Contents
What is an earpiece?
The earpiece that your favorite singer uses is not the same one that you could use to listen to your own music or receive phone calls from your cell phone. Known to actors as the internal monitor, it is designed to maintain consistent sound for musicians, from singers to band members, and even sound engineers.
As its name implies, it goes to the ear where it remains until the performance ends. It was introduced to the world of performance in the late 1980s.
Famous sound engineer Jerry Harvey along with Karl Cartwright invented these dual-speaker internal monitors in 1995. It was then that he founded Ultimate Ears and in 2007 founded JH Audio.
With a varied track record of incredible artists like Van Halen, Kiss, and Linkin Park, to name a few, these internal monitors were meant to block out ambient noise while filtering out any strange sounds that weren’t part of the music.
An internal monitor that a musician uses has two parts. There is a transmitter that sends a wireless signal to the other party, a receiver, using a half-rack unit. If you’ve ever had amazing seats at a show, chances are you’ve noticed a belt pack worn by the singer you love.
That’s the receiver, and the streaming audio can be heard when you connect the headset to the package. The earpiece itself is nothing extraordinary, though engineers can tailor it to precisely mold it to these artists’ ears.
With internal monitors, it allows singers to focus on their music. Actors have also used these headphones to help perfect their performances. If you are a pianist or piano lover, you can check out our review article on the best headphones for a digital piano, where we reviewed our top options.
This is useful in situations where actors need to hear the instrumentals during songs they play in musical adaptations. It is even more useful if you forget your lines.
But with technological innovations and the increasing use of them, mistakes still persist thanks to human error. In fact, a fun situation arose that highlighted flaws that might need some work.
This was in the filming of Dr. Moreau’s Island in 1996. Even acting legend Marlon Brando could not save this disaster. As he fed on the lines of an aide through the use of his earpiece, the signals sometimes intersected with messages from the police scanner that he repeated. Technology has definitely taken us a long way, but it is by no means a perfect method!
Why do singers wear an earpiece?
So, you’re at a concert and you see your favorite singer with what looks like headphones on their ears and, hey, is that his phone hooked up to his belt?
No, it’s just the internal monitors. The transmitter is usually along the side of the body that will send the song or mix from the monitor to the receiver.
Usually what happens is that the musician will use the receiver and connect the earphone. There is also a knob to control the volume.
Internal monitors feature noise cancellation technology that helps muffle background noise. This allows the musician to hear the song clearly while playing.
All these internal monitor technologies were created to solve the problem with stage monitors. All stage monitors must be turned on to balance the sound coming from a loud and happy crowd.
This causes fatigue in the ears and can also damage hearing. Just as troublesome, stage monitors can interfere with the audio. When that happens, it can ruin performance and lead to disappointed fans. From the band’s point of view too, stage monitors make it more difficult to move more freely on stage.
That is why internal monitors are useful for musicians. They guarantee better performance in many critical ways. For starters, they allow freedom of movement on stage.
This is essential for dancers with large choreographed numbers. Without internal monitors, it is very difficult to move.
Internal monitors also reduce feedback. Musicians need to know how to control the microphone when singing. Pointing at a microphone on stage monitors causes annoying audio feedback.
The internal monitor allows musicians to turn the way they want without that nasty screech ruining the show.
Because headphones are so beneficial, this is why singers choose them for performances. Unless they plan to stay in front of a microphone and sing, they are a must for any artist.
Why do musicians wear earpieces while performing?
So now we know why singers wear headphones during their performances. But what exactly do they hear while they have them in their ears?
To understand this, you need a quick acoustic course. The main PA speakers should go in front of the performer or band. If they are behind them, it generates an unpleasant response that makes everyone moan and covers their ears.
With the sound in front of them, this makes your favorite music artists hear something very different from what you experience.
With singers, it’s even more important because they must be able to listen to themselves while performing. Sometimes wedge monitors are used.
These are triangle-shaped speaker cabinets located above the stage looking up towards the singer, but these are only useful if the artist is standing right in front of them.
This is why in-ear monitors have become so popular. Every artist on stage can hear a mix of what is happening. For example, in the case of a band, the singer would need to hear himself louder while the drummer would need to hear the drums and bass player better.
If you’re a musician, you know the struggle of trying to play your best when you can’t listen to yourself.
In short, a singer is heard through the earpiece. Any other group member will also hear himself louder so he can play all the right notes and make his experience of seeing them live one of those moments that he gives his grandchildren someday on the road.
Why Do Singers Sometimes Take Out Their Earpieces?
If you are singing live on stage, you don’t want to take off the headset. This could result in singing out of tune or missing a beat. Without that earpiece or sound monitors in place, it is an absolute mess of sounds.
The internal monitors are so advanced that the sounds can be precisely customized for what you need to hear. This customization means that artists can focus on their own part of the music.
Many people wanted to know what happened to Beyoncé’s performance during the 2013 presidential inauguration ceremony.
The problem was, she didn’t have a chance to rehearse with the Marine Corps Band, so a last-minute decision was made to sync her lips instead of singing it live. So you were listening to sing on a prerecorded.
However, faulty feedback or sound system difficulties were cited as the reason the headset was removed. It is not exactly what I expected, we are sure, but that is definitely one of the drawbacks of internal monitors.
She is not the only one who has been subjected to this kind of thing. Regardless of whether you’re a Beyoncé fan or not, you can surely agree that hearing loud comments in your ear will likely get you out of that earpiece as quickly as possible.
Other Examples of Singers Removing Their Earpiece:
Demi Lovato also pulled out her earpiece at an AOL concert in New York. The visibly frustrated singer, fed up with the audio problems that had plagued her night, threw down her monitor, and continued the show without being able to listen to herself.
To her credit, she handled the situation with remarkable composure and still managed to cut through several octaves in the right tune.
Do in-ear monitors offer better sound and mobility?
When it comes to audio equipment, sound quality is the biggest concern. That is why internal monitors are the preferred option for most live performances.
Stage monitors allow too many errors and can compromise sound coming from other speakers. When feedback occurs, it can alter performance.
If you’ve ever seen a local garage band perform, chances are you’ve been aware of all the interruption of comments that can come from a stage monitor.
In small-scale performances, it’s usually normal for the course, but for large venues and major performances where people spend a lot of money on tickets, it’s a big hassle.
Stage monitors are not ideal for those who move on stage. Those who sing and dance could never do what they do best with stage monitors on the go.
Because internal monitors are wireless, artists have the best mobility. As they are customized to fit each artist, they remain fixed, ensuring solid performance.
What fun would it be to go see Britney perform if she stood in the center of the stage? Or the rock legends Van Halen? Thank goodness for the internal monitors that allow our favorite artists to do more than sing … they can completely entertain us!
Also, in-ear monitoring systems are small and easy to use. It is a fantastic benefit for those responsible for establishing and traveling with the band. There are no bulky sound monitors to load at every show.
What are the advantages of using in-ear Monitors?
Setting up an in-ear monitoring system may seem complicated at first, but the degree of control that allows each member of the gang to be worthwhile. There are also several advantages to using an IEM system instead of wedges. Some of these are listed below:
Better sound quality
Modern internal monitors offer amazing sound quality. These are designed to create a seal inside your ears that block outside noise and can reduce sound levels by as much as 30 decibels or even more. Therefore, you can listen to music in crystal clear quality without any unnecessary noise.
Stage monitoring systems (wedges) can interfere with the rest of the sound system (speakers) present on stage. Common problems include feedback and phase problems that can create acoustic problems and negatively impact band performance. Using IEM systems helps solve these live audio problems.
Stage monitoring systems often have to be set at the highest levels for artists to hear their performance in the crowd. High stage volume can cause ear fatigue and even cause ear damage or long-term hearing problems.
In-ear monitors eliminate the need for wedges and greatly reduce stage volume. Also, due to its noise-canceling function, you can listen to clear and distortion-free music at a comfortable level. As a result, it relieves tension in the ears and helps preserve hearing.
Stage monitors can take up a lot of space on stage and mess it up due to the presence of cables. Also, you must maintain a certain distance and direction to hear them correctly. This greatly limits the mobility of the singers.
What are the disadvantages of using in-ear Monitors?
Most singers wear wireless in-ear monitors that greatly increase their mobility. Also, they can move freely around the stage as they can access more areas on stage. Plus, it’s easier to pack and move around with IEM rather than wedges.
IEM systems allow musicians greater flexibility to play, but they can also have some drawbacks. Some of these are listed below:
Disconnection from your crowd and fans
The noise isolation function of the IEM can make the musician feel disconnected from the audience since he cannot listen to them with the headphones on. Without proper fan feedback, artists may not be able to feel the atmosphere that is essential to a good performance on stage.
One challenge you will face when using your internal monitors is the feeling of detachment from your audience. You will agree that concerts play the loudest music in history.
Additionally, crowd noises also add to the problem. This is a problem you have to get used to when decorating the stage. Musicians who play on stage monitors are used to receiving feedback from their audience. However, with noise-canceling capabilities, internal monitors can eliminate unnecessary noise.
As a musician, this device can disconnect you from your crowd, which is not what you expect to do: you are on stage to entertain yourself and connect with your audience.
To solve this simple problem, configure your microphone so that it is oriented towards your audience. This way, you’ll be able to get the crowd’s response and add a bit of the sound to your song.
Wireless IEM systems use radio waves to transmit sound signals. This can present some interference problems that can lower the sound quality or cause audio loss.
Another factor that you may experience when using wireless monitors in the ear is that they can be easily affected by different elements, such as radio waves that transmit sound. Furthermore, the audio loss can occur quickly and consequently compromise sound quality.
Thanks to technological advancement, sound interference is not a major concern today. Modern systems use signals that lock the receiver and transmitter on a single frequency to ensure that the quality of the song remains constant during the performance.
However, when the sound passes from the transmitter to the receiver, there is a minuscule decrease in audio quality. However, this is a common problem with internal monitors and not something to worry about.
Easy to lose
If IEMs are not custom-made to fit your ears, they can slip frequently. Also, it can be difficult to find them sometimes due to their small size in a dark setting.
Potentially, your internal monitors may fall out of your ears while you perform, especially if you are using generic internal monitors – they do not fit the ear canal properly.
Because you have to move around the stage, your internal monitors are likely to fall out of your ears.
As a result, you can lose your place in the song and expose your ears to loud music. Finding your missing ear monitors can be difficult, especially if you are performing in a dark environment.
So the best way to make sure your device stays in your ear is to buy custom-molded internal monitors, although getting a new pair isn’t cheap either.
That is why many musicians do not have internal monitors. However, you should buy one if you think you need it.
What about the safety of earpieces?
As a singer, the health of your ears is essential. You should always protect your ears whenever you are in a noisy environment, such as at a concert. Being successful in the music industry is very difficult, so don’t make things more difficult by damaging your ears.
Musicians are often exposed to deafening volume levels. Therefore, you need to protect your ears while on stage – another great reason to use internal monitors.
You must have experienced a small ringing sound after a performance, but then the sound fades away. Your ears can be damaged if they are often exposed to that kind of volume.
The use of internal monitors will protect you from noise pollution; you can hear your song playing in the background noise and on-stage monitors. For now, it is clear that internal monitors can decrease strain on the ears.
If it’s loud for you on the show, just remember that it’s even louder for those on stage. With all those sounds playing, they can cause hearing loss.
A singer who cannot listen can never sing as before. Preserving your hearing as a musician is as important as maintaining your talent.
With an in-ear monitor, it blocks the loud sounds of music and the screaming audience. At the same time, it delivers great sound directly to the ears at a safe volume level.
When a musician gets headphones, an earmold is usually created to ensure an absolutely precise fit. With this perfect customization, they are not only comfortable but completely block external sounds to deliver the highest quality.
There are also universal versions of internal monitors, designed for anyone to use. Without a doubt, they will help any singer or musician to give a better and more mobile performance, although the best option is to customize them to seal unwanted sounds and offer a phenomenal concert.
While singers are the primary concern with internal monitors, other bandmates may also want to use them to isolate their sounds and focus on their own performance.
With the transmitter, it can be set to mono or stereo sound, and you can send it to as many receivers as the sound engineers configured, allowing everyone in the group to be on the same page.
The singers use a headphone to offer their best performance while keeping the mobile on stage. As concert ticket prices rise, so does the demand to see the bands do more than just be in one place and play their best songs.
An in-ear monitor is the best type of equipment for singers and bands to help them tune in to their own performances to give their best.
Headphones also help protect against hearing damage, something that is very important to musicians. With the loud sound of music often around her, preserving hearing means that a musician can perform for years without missing a beat.